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image of Biblical Interpretation

This paper interprets the expression (lit. 'I will not cause him/it to return', Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6) as the result of deliberate ambiguity that forms a rhetorical trap for the reader. This extends not only to the meaning of the individual terms employed and especially the referent of the pronoun suffix, but also to whether the formula is to be read as an assertion or a rhetorical question. The reader may easily agree to any number of complementary readings which look toward the punishment of the six foreign nations, only to be trapped into offering a similar judgment against Judah and Israel. This is complicated by the need to reconcile this with the promise of restoration with which the book closes. Many interpretations of the expression are reviewed and the level of contextual support for each is discussed. Many have strong contextual support in each of the eight cases, while some 'secondary' nuances are recognised. A number of readings construe the expression as denying some form of 'return' to the accused nations, e.g., from exile, or a return to the divine presence for punishment (or salvation). Alternatively, Yahweh may be speaking of the withdrawal of his word of punishment, the impending punishment, or some other related concept. To these numerous popular and plausible readings are added some less familiar ones. The reader's grappling with his or her own interpretation of the expression and the moral implications of Yahweh's severe punishment can be related to the character Amos's own described experiences. Prophecy is inevitable (Amos 3:8). Yet, Amos intercedes successfully (7:1-6). Yahweh's manipulative word games soon reassert the prophecy of destruction (7:7-9; 8:1-2). In the end, however, Yahweh relents (9:11-15). These reversals are already intimated in the instability of . This instability provides a 'trap' to keep the readers fascinated with the divine word and the nature of the bond between Yahweh and Israel.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta


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